Many people know their running speed down to the millisecond or know their average number of steps per day thanks to the nifty device resting on their wrist.
But few people know how many miles they can hike and many want to know this so they can plan their hikes accordingly.
If you’ve been wondering how many miles can you hike in a day, and what can be done to increase that number, keep reading.
How Many Miles Can You Hike?
For the purposes of this article, ‘a day’ is defined as the typical number of hours spent hiking during a 24-hour period.
The consensus is that an average healthy hiker is capable of hiking 1 mile in a 15-minute period but this number can fluctuate according to the duration of the hike and the difficulty of the trail.
Trails that are rated as ‘easy’ have no elevation, making it the perfect trail for beginners, younger children, and elderly people.
You’ll also find that ‘easy’ trails allow you to cover ground much faster than trails of a higher difficulty level. But that these types of trails don’t normally cover a long distance.
A trail that’s rated as ‘moderate’ or ‘intermediate’ features a higher level of elevation gain than an ‘easy’ trail and is spread out over a longer distance.
And finally, trails that are rated as ‘challenging’ are the most difficult trails to hike. Featuring a very high level of elevation gain as well as steep elevations, challenging trails are for the more experienced hikers and shouldn’t be attempted by those who lack the necessary skill and experience.
Because of these different factors, it’s tough to determine just how many miles a person can cover during the course of a day.
Many hikers are of the opinion that, throughout the course of a 6-hour hiking period, hikers can comfortably cover a distance of around 32 miles.
What About Experienced Hikers?
It’s only natural that hikers who have more experience are able to cover more ground in a shorter period of time. The main reason for this is simple: they’re used to it!
Seasoned hikers are able to hike 55 miles or more depending on their gear, the difficulty of the trail, and the total hiking time.
What Are the Factors That Affect Hiking Speed?
As you’ve probably figured out by now, many factors affect hiking speed and thus how many miles can you hike in a day.
On top of the trail difficulty and the hiker’s level of experience, here are five other factors that contribute to the distance one can hike in a day.
Your Fitness Level
It should go without saying that a hiker’s physique is aligned with how many miles they’re able to cover in a day.
Those who are experienced will be able to cover more ground at a brisk speed, whereas hikers who are just starting out won’t be as fit or experienced at hiking over long distances.
Terrain and Elevation
The flatter the terrain is the faster it is to hike, and more ground can be covered in a shorter amount of time. On trails with high levels of elevation, you’ll spend more time climbing, navigating and maneuvering terrain.
By knowing the difficulty level in advance, you’ll be able to make a more accurate estimation of how much ground you’ll cover and how quickly.
The Weight of Your Backpack
The weight of your backpack can significantly impact how much ground you’re able to cover in a day.
A backpack that’s made with heavier materials and packed with a lot of supplies will weigh you down and force you to exert more effort and energy during your hike.
Lightweight backpacks that are specifically designed to be used for hiking are made of lighter materials so opt for one of these as much as possible.
If a trail is covered with snow or ice, you’re going to have a hard time. Not only will you have a hard time maintaining a decent pace, but you’ll have a hard time making sure you actually remain on the trail.
The issue of low marking visibility isn’t exclusive to winter trails and is often found on summer trails that have been poorly maintained.
The weather plays a huge role in how many miles you can hike. Intense heat will make you sweaty, sluggish and you’ll need to take frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration.
Cold weather conditions, especially in the mountains, will slow you down even more.
How to Achieve Greater Mileage
Remember that you’re only a beginner right now and one day you’ll be considered a pro too. To become a seasoned long-distance hiker, you’ll need to put in the effort and train hard.
Start by walking a set number of miles on specific days of the week. As you accomplish this goal, extend the distance to a higher number of miles. It’s recommended that you increase the number of miles by two at a time.
You also need to remember that hiking isn’t for the faint-hearted. Blisters, chafing, aches, cramps, and fractures are all common occurrences on trails.
You’ll most likely experience one of the above during your training which is great because it will prepare you for the real thing.
How to Hike Long Distances
If you’re considering a long-distance hike, you should pay special attention to the following tips.
Go Hiking Early
Seasoned hikers will agree that an early start is a key to a successful long-distance hike. A great way to ensure that you can hit the trail early is by organizing your gear and supplies the night before and packing your backpack in advance.
Pack as Lightly as Possible
The less weight you have on your shoulders, the faster you’ll be able to travel and the more distance you’ll be able to cover.
Your first step to traveling light is to opt for a lightweight backpack as opposed to one of heavier construction. From there, your focus should be on reducing your overall backpack weight.
If you want to be able to hike over 15 miles per day, you need to pack your backpack wisely and only include food and supplies that are absolutely essential.
Wear Proper Hiking Shoes
Don’t even attempt a long-distance hike if you don’t have proper hiking shoes. A good pair of hiking shoes are comfortable to wear, lightweight and allow your feet to breathe.
Remember that intensive activities such as hiking will often cause swelling of the feet, so always buy a size up. By purchasing premium socks and proper insoles you’ll be also increasing the overall efficiency of the shoe.
Break Your Hike into Segments
Sometimes our insecurities are our own worst enemy. Hearing that you’ll have to tackle a 40-mile hike in one go can be daunting and leave you doubting yourself and your capabilities.
Instead, break the total distance into smaller segments that you’re more comfortable with. Eight 5-mile sections sound a lot easier to conquer than one 40-mile stretch.
We’ll be the first to agree that there’s nothing quite like a good breakfast while camping.
Unfortunately, a meal soon before a hike isn’t always a good idea as it can prevent an early start and lead to the development of stitches or cramps.
A better idea to increase the chances of a successful hike would be to nibble on a snack before your hike begins and then enjoy your breakfast once you’ve covered a decent amount of ground.
Don’t Have Lunch
So long as you’re following our bi-hourly tip you shouldn’t even need to eat lunch.
However, if you really do need to take a lunch break, you should take it later in the day. Make sure you set a stopwatch and don’t exceed the time you set aside for lunch.
Don’t Go Very Fast
Pacing yourself is a key to many activities. A pace of around 2 or 3 miles per hour is considered moderate and can be done quite easily.
A good way to tell if you’re going too fast is by monitoring how often you have to stop in order to rest or catch your breath.
Take a Break Every Two Hours to Eat
Take an approach of ‘prevent rather than cure’ when it comes to your body. By stopping to rest and fuel up with snacks every two hours you’ll be performing optimally. Eat even if you aren’t hungry now, so you won’t feel hungry later.
As your bi-hourly break is nearing its end, take a few minutes to lie down before resuming your hike. Close your eyes, remove your shoes and focus on your breathing for a little while.
By the time you’re back on the trail, you’ll be feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the hike.
Track Your Time
After some time, try monitoring time with a wristwatch. Tracking your time, monitoring your progress and adjusting your schedule is important when you’re trying to increase the number of miles you hike.
Enjoy a Day of Rest Every Week
If you’re only a casual hiker or you’re just getting started as a long-distance hiker, this one doesn’t apply to you.
Long-distance hikes often mean spending a long time in campsites away from home. Once a week, take a 24-hour rest and use this time to relax, restock your supplies, and rest your feet.
No matter if you’re a seasoned pro, an intermediate hiker or just starting out in the hiking world – knowing your limits is incredibly important.
The easiest way to determine your limits is to simply grab your gear, lace up your hiking shoes and set out to find out.
Initially, don’t be too hard on yourself and try to keep your goals attainable. Aim for between 10 to 20 miles at a moderate pace.
As you achieve this distance, pick up your pace and try to do it in a shorter amount of time. Before you know it, you’ll be crushing out 30 miles a day.
Experiment with different trails, hiking styles, shoes and exercises and don’t forget to have fun as you pick up the pace!